December 4, 2012

Rep. Chu Praises New Mars Rover Mission for 2020 (Source: Pasadena Now)
Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-32) released the following statement in praise of NASA’s announcement of a forthcoming multiyear Mars program, including a new robotic rover set to launch in 2020: "I am really excited that the MARS program is going to continue. After facing a nearly 40% cut earlier this year, we have now won an important victory – it’s future is secure. I am going to fight to make sure we get the most out of this mission." (12/4)

Europe's 'Vomit Comet' Sets Commercial Flights (Source: PhysOrg)
Until now restricted to trainee space explorers and scientists, Europe's "Zero-G" aircraft is to start making commercial flights for paying customers from March 15, its operators said on Tuesday. The Airbus 300 flies parabolas, offering around 30 seconds of gravity-free experience at the top of each loop.

Over a flight lasting two and a half hours, those onboard acquire a total of five minutes of weightlessness, drifting in a big padded cabin. Three flights are scheduled for 2013, each of them carrying 40 adult passengers, said France's National Centre for Space Studies (CNES), which operates the specially-adapted plane with the firm Novespace. And the cost? 5,980 euros ($7,770) a head. Zero-gravity flights are already available commercially in the United States and Russia. (12/4)

NASA Plans Another Curiosity-Based Rover for Mars in 2020 (Source:
NASA’s associate administrator for science, John Grunsfeld, has announced NASA’s forward path for robotic exploration of Mars, including the confirmation of a new Rover, to be launched in 2020. With human exploration still 20+ years away, the interim program of robotic pathfinders will aim to build on the successes already achieved by Curiosity. (12/4)

TEA Party In Space (TPIS) Telecon Planned on Thursday (Source: TPIS)
We hope you will join us on December 6th, 2012 at 9PM EDT - 6PM PDT for the TPIS national conference call.  The conference call will be lead by the TPIS Team and agenda items will include ITAR reform; Mars Probe and plutonium production; Golden Spike; and Congressional interaction. Click here. (12/4)

GAO Not Convinced by NASA's Latest JWST Cost Estimate (Source: Space Policy Online)
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is giving NASA credit for taking steps in the right direction, but remains unconvinced that the most recent cost estimate is reliable. A GAO report assessed the latest cost estimate -- $8 billion for development plus $800 million for operations, for a total life cycle cost of $8.8 billion -- against four characteristics that GAO seeks: comprehensive, well documented, accurate and credible. NASA's estimate meets the first of those "substantially," but the other three only "partially," GAO concluded. (12/3)

China Prepares to Grow Vegetables on Mars (Source: Cosmos)
Chinese astronauts are preparing to grow fresh vegetables on Mars and the moon after researchers successfully completed a preliminary test in Beijing, state media reported. Four kinds of vegetables were grown in an "ecological life support system", a 300 cubic metre cabin which will allow astronauts to develop their own stocks of air, water and food while on space missions.

The system, which relies on plants and algae, is "expected to be used in extra-terrestrial bases on the Moon or Mars," a Xinhua report said. Participants in the experiment could "harvest fresh vegetables for meals", Xinhua quoted Deng Yibing, a researcher at Beijing's Chinese Astronaut Research and Training Center, as saying. (12/4)

Space Policy Issues for the Next Four Years (Sources: Space Politics, Space Policy Online)
On Monday, a panel of experts discussed the space policy issues that will be at the forefront of the Obama Administration’s second term at an event organized by the Secure World Foundation. There are, as one might expect, no shortage of challenges facing NASA, the White House, Congress, and other players in space policy, from budgets to strategy to international cooperation. A few key items that emerged from the discussion included budget strategy; culture changes; dealing with China; export control reform, and a space "code of conduct". Click here and here for summaries. (12/4)

Space Foundation Recommends NASA Adopt Pioneering Purpose (Source: SpaceRef)
The Space Foundation made a number of recommendations for strengthening NASA focus, oversight and funding and strengthening the overall U.S. civil space program. The new report recommends: Returning NASA to its roots by establishing pioneering as its singular, compelling purpose and transitioning non-pioneering activities to other government and private sector organizations.

It suggested realigning the national civil space enterprise so NASA is no longer perceived as being responsible for "all things space" and instead concentrates on its primary purpose. It recommended dissociating appointment of the NASA administrator from the presidential election cycle; stabilizing NASA planning by requiring both an objectives-based 10-year plan and a broad 30-year strategic plan; expanding options available to Congress for funding NASA; and conducting and acting upon a series of assessments of NASA's practices to redefine its culture, make it more effective and rekindle its spirit. Click here. (12/4)

$900M in Pentagon Launch Contracts Awarded to Lockheed, Orbital, SpaceX (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin, Orbital Sciences, and SpaceX will provide launch services for the U.S. Department of Defense and other agencies under contracts with a potential combined value of $900 million, the Pentagon announced Dec. 3. The Rocket Systems Launch Program (RSLP) is managed by the U.S. Air Force and is used to launch small satellites as well as suborbital payloads.

Orbital Sciences is the incumbent on the RSLP program and has launched several small satellites in recent years aboard a rocket dubbed Minotaur, which is based in part on excess missile hardware. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 medium-class rocket has notched multiple successful launches to date. Lockheed Martin has resurrected the Athena for the RSLP effort with partner ATK Space Systems. (12/3)

DNA May Help scientists Find ‘Dark Matter’ (Source: Washington Post)
Proposals for the next generation of dark matter detectors run into the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars. One such project would require an empty mine filled with a cubic kilometer of gas. Now, a group of big-name theoretical physicists and biologists has proposed a radical new type of detector that dangles DNA as dark-matter bait. At coffee-table size, it would be much less expensive than other proposed detectors, they say. Call it the ultimate mashup of biology and cosmology. (12/4)

Virgin Spaceship Aims to Be Science Lab (Source: BBC)
Sir Richard Branson wants his tourist spaceship also to become a high-altitude science platform. The billionaire's rocket plane will carry six fare-paying passengers just above the atmosphere to experience a few minutes of weightlessness. But the vehicle has been designed so that its seats can be removed easily and the space filled with science gear. Passenger flights should begin in 18 months or so; research sorties could start soon after.

NASA has already chartered the rocket plane. "It's likely we might do some science flights quite early in the program," explained Will Pomerantz from Virgin Galactic. "NASA is certainly eager to get their flights conducted - the ones they have already purchased. "It may also give us some additional time to show off the reliability and the operations of the vehicle, which would give our tourism customers even more confidence. (12/4)

Secrets of Universe Revealed Thanks to USAF Research Complex (Source: USAF)
Looking skyward, scientists worldwide now know the universe's size, composition, approximate age and rate of expansion, thanks in part to "essential" data derived from a time-sensitive test conducted at the Arnold Engineering Development Complex's (AEDC) Mark 1 Aerospace Space Chamber. Click here. (12/3)

Canada: We Need a Space Plan (Source: Times Colonist)
Thursday's report on the review of Canada's space and aerospace industries was following a cool and dispassionate path until David Emerson chose stronger words: "The Canadian space program has foundered." The former industry minister added: "This cannot continue." He focused all the frustration that scientists and space industry leaders have felt for years. Canada has no new long-term space plan, and the last one was written in 1994. The Conservatives promised one in 2008, but nothing ever appeared. (12/1)

EADS May Revamp Management, Structure (Source: Washington Post)
A shakeup of management and company structure is likely coming at EADS, as the company confirmed this week that its major French and German shareholders are discussing changes to the stakes they hold in the aerospace company. "EADS' state shareholdings are going to change ... and we will therefore have to revise the shareholder pact," said French President Francois Hollande. "We are working on it, and a deal is close." (12/3)

Vast Systems of Ancient Caverns on Mars May Have Captured Floodwaters (Source: SpaceRef)
An international research team led by the Planetary Science Institute has found evidence that indicates that approximately 2 billion years ago enormous volumes of catastrophic floods discharges may have been captured by extensive systems of caverns on Mars. The research team came to this conclusion after studying the terminal regions of the Hebrus Valles, an outflow channel that extends approximately 250 kilometers downstream from two zones of surface collapse.

The Martian outflow channels comprise some of the largest known channels in the solar system. Although it has been proposed their discharge history may have once led to the formation of oceans, the ultimate fate and nature of the fluid discharges has remained a mystery for more than 40 years, and their excavation has been attributed to surface erosion by glaciers, debris flows, catastrophic floodwaters, and perhaps even lava flows. (12/4)

Pentagon Approves EELV Block Buy, with Competitive Twist (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force is opening up its primary satellite launching program to competition even as it moves ahead with controversial plans for a multiyear rocket purchase from the current contractor. Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, authorized the Air Force to purchase up to 50 rocket cores during the next five years under its EELV program, which is used to loft the vast majority of U.S. national security payloads.

Up to 36 of these rocket cores will be procured from incumbent contractor United Launch Alliance (ULA) on a sole-source basis. The other 14 cores will be procured competitively, according to a Nov. 27 memo, addressed to Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley and Christine H. Fox, the Pentagon’s director of cost assessment and program evaluation. The first of these competitive awards is expected in 2015 for a mission launching in 2017, according to the memo.

As a hedge, the Air Force will retain an option to negotiate with ULA for the 14 cores currently subject to the competitive procurement in the event that no other contractor is able to meet the mission requirements, according to the memo. EELV prime contractor ULA, a Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture, enjoys a virtual monopoly in the U.S. national security launch market with its Delta 4 and Atlas 5 rockets, the latter of which is also NASA’s workhorse vehicle for scientific payloads. (12/4)

No comments: